Croatia is divided into two broad wine regions, coastal and continental, each with sub-regions divided yet further into smaller districts. Altogether Croatia boasts more than 300 geographically-defined wine producing areas.
The inland region, stretching from northwest to southeast along the Drava and Sava rivers as they flow eastward into the Danube, has a warmer Continental climate.
Production is strongly concentrated in white wine varieties. The most widely planted vine is Graševina, which yields light, crisp, refreshing, mildly aromatic wines. Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown here, along with Frankovka as the main red wine grape.
The coastal wine region runs along the Adriatic coast and includes Istria in the north and Dalmatia to the south. A multitude of islands and hillside slopes produce an endless array of microclimates dotted with small winegrowing estates. Istria emphasizes Bordeaux reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, while Dalmatia is home to a stunning array of indigenous grape varieties, with names as hard to pronounce as the wines themselves are hard to find.
In Croatian wine regions produce 67 percent white, 32 percent red and the remaining 1 percent rose wines.
In the harsher, more arid continental part of Croatia, more than 90 percent of the wine produced is white. In coastal areas, the main attraction is red wines , some of which are very outstanding. Just under 10 percent of production is classified as superior wine, a little under 70 percent as quality and around 25 percent as table wine.
The grapes used for whites may not be familiar to Westerners. Gra'evina grapes (sometimes referred to as Graševina) are better known as Welschriesling and the Frankovka grapes you may know as Blaufränkisch. Coastal Dalmatia's reds are made from Plavac Mali...named for the small blue fruit the vines produce.
Plavac Mali is an offshoot of the true Zinfandel wine grapes. Most of the wine world agrees that the Zinfandel variety is a native Dalamatian grape variety, although Italy was long thought to be the place where it originated. The coastal red wines produced from this grape are bringing the most attention...and awards...from the international wine community.
Some of the names you'll soon know well are Babic from the island of Hvar as well as Dingac and Postup from the Pelješac Peninsula in Dalmatia. Some of the sparkling wines produced in Croatia according to the methode championoise make an excellent and nicely priced choice for celebrations... something to keep in mind around the holiday season.
Croatia's Best Wines
In southeast Croatia, look for Traminac from Ilok, in
northern Croatia, look for Zlahtina from Vrbnik on Krk Island; Cabernet from Porec; Sauvignon, Merlot and Terrano from Buzet.
In Dalmatia look for Dingac and Postup from the Peljesac Peninsula, Babic from Primosten, Vugava from Vis, Plavac from Bol, Malmsy from Dubrovnik, Posip and Grg from Korcula.